BOISE — Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a technician at Micron Technology was watching a news report out of Chicago and had an idea.
The clip showed health care workers placing a clear plastic shield they had created over patients while doctors and nurses inserted breathing tubes to help the patients breathe using ventilators. This is an especially dangerous part of COVID-19 treatment because the droplets expelled while the tube goes in, or out, spread easily and can infect those completing the procedure.
A few emails later, Micron’s fabrication shop in Boise had the go ahead to design and build a prototype for these shields to donate to the local hospital systems treating COVID-19 patients. Since then, roughly 60 shields total have been distributed to St. Luke’s health system and West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell.
“It was 24 hours later when we had two prototypes for the hospitals,” Bryan Roberts, senior manager for Micron’s Central Shops in Boise, said. “All we saw was a video of the shield. We didn’t have any measurements, but we knew we could be pretty close but once we had the prototypes our procurement team reached out to the local hospitals to see if there was a need.”
The cube-shaped shields cost about $450 each to manufacture and are made out of a clear polycarbonate material. They function like an incubator for a newborn, which includes gloves that allow a health care worker to reach inside the clear box to insert the ventilator while still protecting them from any infectious material from the patient. These are used on top of traditional personal protective equipment such as masks, gowns and face shields.
Roberts said after the initial prototype was developed and delivered to St. Luke’s there was a back and forth between the health system and the technicians to make sure the shield was as effective as possible. St. Luke’s Director of Value Analysis in Supply Chain Jessica Sloan said after a little bit of tinkering the shields were exactly what the health system needed. They are being used in operating rooms and surgical service areas.
“We really appreciate Micron partnering with us and donating them,” she said. “They were very receptive to the feedback and changes and produced them much more rapidly than we could have anticipated.”
Roberts said working with the technicians in his shop on this project was a great experience because they wanted to use all of their curiosity and knowledge to make the most helpful product possible.
“They tweaked a couple of things on their end with their stuff, with doctors and nurses, but working with engineers is outstanding,” Roberts said. “They’re always thinking. How can I do this better? How can I do this faster? That is all stuff we go through on a daily basis with anything we build, whether it’s this or something for day-to-day operations.”